By Jennifer L. Saunders


Reports on Mozilla's launch this week of a do-not-track feature for its Firefox browser and plans coming forward from Google and Microsoft are raising questions as to whether such industry-created features will be enough to assuage Federal Trade Commission concerns about consumer privacy.

While the FTC called for do-not-track in its recent report on Internet privacy and continues to gather input on the next step, a growing list of federal legislators are slated to propose privacy bills in the weeks ahead, and do-not-track is among the issues expected to be debated on Capitol Hill as privacy concerns persist.

The California Office of Privacy Protection’s Joanne McNabb, CIPP, shared her perspective on online tracking for a PBS report on privacy, stating, "We think we're the customers when we're shopping around online. In fact, we're the product; we're the raw material that's being marketed. Trafficked.”

Mozilla’s new feature is one of several that have come in response to calls by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for companies to provide comprehensive opt-out tools to Internet users who do not want their online activities followed for advertising purposes.

The beta version, released this week, allows users to check a box opting not to be tracked, which then transmits that message to each site the users visit.

"We believe the header-based approach has the potential to be better for the Web in the long run because it is a clearer and more universal opt-out mechanism than cookies or blacklists," Mozilla Privacy Lead Alex Fowler explained in ClickZ feature, adding that it is less complex and more persistent than other techniques.

However, the report points out that “the mechanism will only allow users to opt out of being tracked by parties that choose to enable the technology. In order to satisfy the FTC, therefore, some form of monitoring and enforcement would likely be required.”

The Wall Street Journal reports on Microsoft’s unveiling of “an almost-finished version of its latest Internet Explorer browser,” commonly known as IE9, that “addresses growing concerns over the amount of private information that is collected each time a Web user visits a site.”

Like the Mozilla feature, and Google’s “Keep My Opt Outs,” which consumers may activate for its Chrome browser, IE9 asks users to opt in to the do-not-track service in order to opt out of being tracked online.

The IE9 version “allows users to employ lists of Web sites recommended for blocking,” according to The Wall Street Journal’s report.

While many have voiced support for industry to take the lead in addressing consumer privacy concerns through do-not-track options and self-regulatory approaches, the nature of each of these new do-not-track options requires users to take action as opposed to having their privacy be the default setting. This prompts the question as to whether they will provide the do-not-track solution the FTC is seeking.

FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch is among those cautioning that he is “not yet prepared to fully embrace the newly proposed do-not-track mechanisms” being offered by various online companies.

And speaking at a recent event in California, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill said that if the self-regulatory approaches coming forward from the online industry do not meet the FTC’s standards, “we will ask Congress to take up the issue.”

Editor’s note: Hear more from Mozilla’s Alex Fowler in the session “EU Cookies Under Siege” at the IAPP Global Privacy Summit 2011 in March.


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Advertise in IAPP Publications

Find out how to get your message in front the people you want to reach. Download a media kit now.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Registration Open

New! Intensive two-day GDPR training led by the sharpest minds in the field. It's a can't-miss event.

The Congress Is Cancelled

The IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress 2015 is cancelled. Click through to learn more.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»